I have accumulated a lot of textbooks, many of which I have yet to read, and I am wondering how to determine the relevance of those books for me based on my field of study, my interests, and academic relevance (which I suspect varies by field of study).

What are some techniques for determining the relevance of a textbook for future reading?

  • 1
    Looking at the table of contents is a good start. I don't understand the presence of "by date" in your title; are you suggesting that the date when the textbook was written is likely to help you in deciding whether to read it? I don't think that will generally be true. Apr 12 '15 at 17:28
  • My question is about future reading. Eliminating books from the list using heuristics is important to me because I don't have the time to read all of the books that I own (and there are also books I want to make time to read that I don't own). I like the response about checking the table of contents, and I will also try sample reading from books that I have concerns about.
    – Galen
    Apr 12 '15 at 17:44

To determine the relevance of a textbook for future reading, you have to extrapolate your past field of study and interests, based upon which you bought the textbooks in the first place.

If you intend to remain in your current field, keep the books immediately pertinent for that discipline. Otherwise, keep mainly the textbooks on reusable skills, such as math and statistics, computer programming, foreign languages, etc.

You may also want to ask senior students/researchers what books they kept on their shelves.


If there's a book you haven't used for +3 years, it would be safe to keep it in storage until the need comes up, when that happens you can (almost) always find the book in the library or borrow it from a friend.

I sold/gave away almost all my textbooks before I went to graduate school. It's better for a textbook to be studied by a student who needs it than to gather dust on my bookshelf.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.